Women in Transgressive Fiction
The most elusive creature in an already unheard of genre … women.
It is no secret that the transgressive fiction genre is, for the majority, populated by men.
Ironically enough, women even writing transgressive fiction is almost as atypical as the genre itself. Transgressive Fiction is a genre inspired by the unorthodox, the taboo, and often grotesque. Maybe what we need to push the controversial envelope within our already debatable genre is a woman's touch.
Who are some of the women of transgressive fiction? And why is the concept of women writing transgressive fiction so interesting? Why would women want to write in such a masculine genre?
Sylvia Plath, author of books such as The Bell Jar and The Colossus and Other Poems, was a novelist as well as a short story writer and poet of transgressive fiction and another form of postmodernism, confessional poetry.
Confessional poetry doesn't differ much if at all from what we know and love about transgressive fiction.
In confessional poetry the writer will often focus on their own personal experiences and the intimate details around them. Taboo subjects such as mental illness, addiction, and sexuality will often make an appearance and its willingness to tell use themes in detail is what makes it share everything that we adore about transgressive fiction.
One of the most infamous women writers of the transgressive genre, she used her own personal experiences in intimate detail to achieve compelling storytelling - something that most, if not all, transgressive fiction authors can admit to doing in their own writing. But what really makes her a reputable woman of transgressive fiction is that she wrote about things that many people feel uncomfortable talking about now let alone back in the 60's. In The Bell Jar alone, a semi-autobiographical novel, she brings up themes of severe mental illness, suicide, lesbianism, sex, and free thinking.
Please don't expect me to always be good and kind and loving. There are times when I will be cold and thoughtless and hard to understand. Sylvia Plath
Anaïs Nin had gained mainstream fame in the 60's but had been writing since the 1930's. Some of her most popular works include Little Birds: Erotica, House of Incest, Seduction of the Minotaur, Delta of Venus, and even her own diary. Needless to say she was a transgressive woman writer who used sex as largely as her muse. She was a woman that strongly believed in and was inspired by the personal growth women experience in their lives as well as not shying away from everything that goes into it. She put a light to the experiences and emotions that women have onto countless pages. Her work falls right into the genre of transgressive fiction for her ability to show all of those things without a censor and without conforming to the idea that society has about women.
There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person. Anais Nin
Anne Sexton, like those before her, was widely known as a talented confessional poet.
Author of the written works such as Live or Die, Transformations, The Awful Rowing Toward God - Sexton often used themes of identity, mental illness, and sex in her writing. And as is the case with many transgressive fiction authors and confessional poets, her work was heavily inspired by her own personal struggles in life.
I'm the crazy one who thinks that words reach people. Anne Sexton
Transgressive Fiction, Women, and Society
Transgressive Fiction is arguably one of the most under the radar literary genres out there. And despite the female authors of the genre who have made a reputable career of it, there still seems to be a lack of a feminine presence within the genre.
Women have a particularly low population in transgressive fiction because of preconceptions of what the mainstream expects from women. The mainstream doesn’t immediately want to believe that women would write about grotesque or heavily uncensored material as far as the genre tends to take it -- which we all are aware are without boundaries.
Transgressive Fiction pulls its inspiration from reality and also from the taboo of society. And although the male writers of the genre achieve this, the women who write transgressive fiction especially achieve the aspect of taboo by simply even writing the genre and being women.
Society still believes that women shouldn't be vulgar, they shouldn't be pessimistic, they shouldn't be this or that because it is unladylike. Women writing transgressive fiction would fall under societies definition of unladylike.
A woman writing transgressive fiction is transgressive.
It's not the genres fault or the men within the genres fault for there being so few women in transgressive fiction ... rather the first and main culprit is actually at the fault of those who think it is appropriate to tell women what is okay to discuss and write about.
Women who have written and who do write transgressive fiction often have their writing talent brushed aside in discussion about them and instead people choose to focus solely on why they write transgressive fiction.
Now, there's nothing wrong with a little psychology.
But there is a problem with reducing someone's talent down to them being damaged or into them acting out or- my personal favorite- being hysterical.
Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton were more than their mental illness and their unfortunate suicides. Anais Nin was more than just her overt sexuality. They were women who were phenomenal transgressive writers who wrote about whatever the fuck they wanted and didn't censor their writing.
Even today, women who write transgressive fiction have a hard time without having their psyche dissected.
About The Author
Natalie Nider is the author of her upcoming short story collection
For My Amusement and creator of
She has turned her love of Transgressive Fiction and Dirty Realism into a passion.
She lives in Pennsylvania with her family where she can often be found writing or staring into an eggshell wall thinking about it.